Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Journalists fear Web 2.0

Or at least a collection of them felt it worth getting together recently to discuss the impact of the Internet on traditional media. It was organised by my old Oxford college, and indeed the speakers were from there - spanning several generations.

A range of views were expressed about the likely impact of the Web on journalism and broadcasting. Some welcomed the democratisation of publishing that characterises 'Web 2.0', whereas in other cases there was more than a tinge of fear and loathing. The 'pro pros' could see the benefit of whistle-blowers (apparently a blogger exposed corruption among certain journalists during the Enron scandal), the increasing levels of participation and feedback that Web 2.0 entails, and so on. The 'antis' were in some cases, frankly, mere knee-jerk net-haters, trotting out old lines about quality control, paedophiles and so on. In the middle ground were those who saw benefits of the net, but thought that traditional journalism would survive thanks to the 'professionalism' of journalists. This seemed to boil down to informed comment and authentic sourcing.

Where views smacked of protectionist thinking I tended to discount them. Not being a journalist I don't share the fear of obsolescence. I did find myself wondering a bit about quality/authenticity - but not much. Librarians have cited this objection to the 'net for years. I don't really buy it. I find it relatively easy to figure out if what I read on the web is trustworthy or not, and if I'm unsure there are plenty of ways to cross-check. I do agree this takes time, though. A journalist who has done it for me should be worth his cover price. But how many do?

There also seemed to be a widespread ignorance of how high the quality is of many blogs, probably because most members of the audience had not figured out how to use the Web 2.0 tools of tagging, RSS and so on to identify the blogs that they might want to read.

Some of these concerns get raised as objections to Enterprise 2.0 as well. Any thoughts?

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